I’m a community mobilizer. It’s not just what I do but it’s who I am. I desire to mobilize people to engage local, national, and international communities. And when they engage them, I want to do so in the name of Jesus. I get the chance this in a college setting, and have been for the last eight years. I’ve made a few observations over my tenure, and one of the most startling is that very few college-aged students can articulate the gospel, nor can they understand the basic tenets of theology, despite being immersed in a Christian academic setting.
Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God by Grenz and Olson, is a welcome breath of fresh air in my current setting. Not only does it really tackle the why we need theology, which is lacking in today’s college students, it also seeks to situate it into daily life. In essence, it makes theology attainable, relatable, and generally do-able.
College is such a formative time in one’s life. There are so many big lessons to learn and questions to ponder. By reminding the readers that “everyone – especially every Christian – is a theologian and that every professional theologian is simply a Christian whose vocation is to do what all Christians do in some way: think and teach about God”, it helps provide an attainable framework for the exploration of some of life’s biggest questions. While I think University requirements might be what initially draw students toward our office, the fact that we regularly encourage students to engage some of these big questions really develops their theological understanding.
Last night, I was training this year’s short-term missions participants. We always start with “Why” we do, because like Simon Sinek points out, if you can start with why, you better understand your purpose, cause, or belief. We do tell them that throughout their training process, they will learn more about “how” to do this work, and “what” it is they are doing will be continually defined. But if they understand their purpose, they will know why they exist. Part of the way we help them understand the “why” of our office is explaining that we use a model called “Encounter – Formation – Expression” which was developed by Mike Ashcraft, the Pastor of Port City Community Church in North Carolina. At its basic level, what we’re hoping for is that all students have an encounter with the living God, themselves, one another, and their environment, which cause them to process that encounter through a formation of their awareness of new information, and bringing that into alignment with what they know about Scripture. Lastly, we hope and pray that this new information plays out through a different expression of themselves and their faith. It’s why we do what we do.
Grenz and Olson highlighted this concept of “encounter – formation – expression” for me in this book over and over again. They articulated that, “Good theology always makes a difference in how Christians live, and it motivates them as well. As they come to know more about God and his relationship to the world, disciples of Christ are drawn to love God more. As they come to love God more, they desire to serve him more. Good theology always moves from the head to the heart and finally to the hand.” In essence, the more we encounter God, the more we formulate new ways about loving God and God’s people, which then cause us to serve both God and God’s people. I think my students need to hear that theology might just be a way to encapsulate “encounter – formation – expression” in fancier words and that they are capable of theologizing too.
 Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 13, kindle edition
 Simon Sinek, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (lecture at TEDxPuget Sound, May 2010). https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action
 “About Us,” Port City Church Wilmington, accessed November 28, 2018, https://www.pc3wilmington.org/staff/
 Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 45, kindle edition
 Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 125 kindle edition